Written by Shannon Cowden, posted by blog admin
Eclectic, schizophrenic rock with odes to rural and rustic Americana is the order of the day on Donoma’s Falling Forward. Two albums deep into their collective career this five-piece band themselves at the heart of a maelstrom; a maelstrom which can be defined as the band members’ own minds spinning violently out of control. Produced like a late 60s/early 70s vintage hard rock masterpiece, unusual like 80s post-punk and sporting a refreshingly original approach to free-form song composition, Donoma’s twelve tune juggernaut hits more than it misses.
The record begins with a triple shot gun blast of songs that are the definition of tough, intelligent rock. “Sick” curls the toes like fermented moonshine, balancing potent flavors of gritty proto-hard rock, the early SoCal cowboy punk movement, outlaw country and cancerous Marlboro blues. It’s a rousing introduction to the band’s work ethic and singer Stephanie Vogt’s punch-drunk, piss n’ vinegar gospel. “Jack in the Box” could be a lost Steve Albini production; the band’s “giddy-up partner,” Hank Williams-inflected raucousness rubbed sandpaper raw by skronk-y, Big Black-esque clatter n’ pound. If these songs have you cowering in fear of the next punch, the molten slow-blues of “Memory” and “A Change is Gonna Come (a reworking of the Sam Cooke classic)” will heal the wounds of the more turbulent material. These juxtapositions run rampant through the album and for every cool-headed track, you get a couple of hardheads looking for trouble. “He Loves Me Not” relies on the rhythm section and piano in the lead roles with the guitar adding atmosphere until the pacing kicks up later; the mission statement being to seamlessly splice cabaret, 80s goth/post-punk, country and hard-rock into one unique tapestry…this mission is a success by the by.
They play Russian roulette with musical styles, revolvers and liquor on the immediately succeeding “Deep Beneath the Woods,” a tangled forest where dub, dark wave and psychedelic inspirations steal secret breathless kisses. “Another Light” drops the mood from high noon into sundown as the country ramble remains present even when the tempos slow from a stagecoach chase to a drunken stumble. This relaxing of intensity is busted wide open yet again by the furious squeal of “Splinter’s” cutthroat guitar lacerations and hoof breaking drum/bass interplay. Vocalist Stephanie Vogt gets a huge chance to shine on the earthen heavy blues rock of “Unfortunate One,” where trace elements of The Groundhogs, The Brandos, Royal Thunder and Janis Joplin can be heard. As the record winds to a close, the soft balladry of “A New Shed of Colors” and “Come with me” actually feel rather out of place; “Come with Me” is especially in need of vocals even if the arrangement is pretty enough. “Otherside” delivers the snub-nosed blues rock goods with aplomb and a fever sweat.
Despite a couple of minor issues with flow and a small number of slight filler pieces, Falling Forward is a retro feeling rock record possessing teeth, toughness and identity. It’s a progression from the first album for sure and one can only wonder what ionosphere album #3 will launch Donoma into. The sky is the limit from here.